Greece, Hellenistic Period, ca. 323 to 30 BCE. An exceedingly graceful ceramic vessel, the body with a sinuous silhouette somewhat akin to a hydria, its neck featuring wonderful checkerboard and concentric square motifs, and those twin handles adorned with matching theatre mask appliques. The Greek theatre thrived on the use of expressive actors masks; these appliques may be miniature versions of larger masks worn by actors showing youthful faces with wide open mouths, these visages framed by distinct coiffures. So elegant, with ultra thin walls, this piece was obviously created by a superior potter. Size: 5.5" W x 5.125" H (14 cm x 13 cm)
In ancient Greece, three major theatrical genres emerged: tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play. In addition, theatrical productions comprised part of a festival called Dionysia honoring the god Dionysus. The actors performed at quite a distance from their audiences. Without theatrical masks, it would be nearly impossible to read their expressions. Comic masks presented smiles, while tragic mask put forth more pained or mournful expressions. In addition to communicating emotions, theater masks actually amplified the actors' voices, making it easier for the audience to hear their words. Masks were traditionally made from linen and cork; hence none have survived. Luckily we have renderings on other types of ancient Greek visual culture such as this vase.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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